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County Council calls for more thorough monitoring at Labadie power plant

The St. Charles County Council has passed a resolution calling for more thorough monitoring of sulfur dioxide emissions at Ameren Missouri’s Labadie Energy Center power plant across the Missouri River in Franklin County. The plant burns coal to generate electricity.

The 7-0 vote came on Sept. 12, after the council heard a presentation from Steve Whitworth,  senior director of environmental policy and analysis with Ameren Missouri. The council had delayed a decision on the resolution at its Aug. 29 meeting to allow Ameren Missouri officials a chance to appear before them to discuss monitoring procedures at the plant.

Whitworth described the ongoing process involved with changing emission requirements for the plant. He said the emissions from the plant are far below federal requirements and that emissions have been cut significantly.  Ameren Missouri “has an interest in being a good neighbors” and managing it operations and providing sufficient, affordable and safe electricity, he said.  The plant provides 50 percent of the electricity used by Ameren Missouri customers.

Council chairman Joe Cronin [District 1] said the county is simply asking for a sufficient number of air monitors to assure good air quality for present and future generations.  “If we’re not doing that, we’re not doing our job as a council,” Cronin said.

Copies of  the resolution will be sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and the area’s congressional delegation.

Councilman Joe Brazil [District 1], who sponsored the resolution and lives across the river from the plant, said local residents are worried about emissions from the plant’s smoke stakes.  Additional monitors would add to residents “peace of mind,” he said.

labadieAt its Aug. 29 work session and meeting, the council heard from local environmental activists and an attorney from Washington University, who urged the county to pass the resolution. The resolution asks the EPA to ensure a sufficient number of monitors be placed around the plant in locations where the highest level of emissions are expected to be detected.

Maxine Lipeles, director of the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic at the Washington University School of Law, said Labadie is the largest plant of its type that is not equipped with scrubbers, a term for the technology used to limit the sulfur-dioxide emissions the plant releases through its smoke stacks.

Lipeles said the installation of scrubbers at Ameren’s Sioux Energy Center power plant in eastern St. Charles County has reduced sulfur emissions drastically.

Both Lipeles and Michael V. Garvey, an orthodontist in St. Charles and a spokesperson for the Gateway Network, questioned the Missouri Department of Natural Resources [DNR] recommending that the EPA designate the Labadie plant as “unclassifiable” regarding sulfur emissions. They said DNR used data from poorly placed air monitors.

In February, EPA officials had announced that it would likely designate parts of St. Charles and Franklin counties as not meeting current clean air standards for sulfur emissions. However, EPA officials said in July that it did not have enough information to determine if the plant was in compliance and now intends to use new air quality data from monitors to assess the air quality.

Sulfur dioxide comes from the burning of coal containing sulfur. Sulfur dioxide particles in the smoke emitted through smoke stacks at power plants can become lodged in lungs and pulmonary tissues when breathed in and can cause respiratory problems. Particularly vulnerable are elderly and young residents and people with asthma.

Cronin said scrubbers at the Sioux plant reduced emissions by over 90 percent. The cost of the scrubbers was included in customer bills and the work generated jobs, he said.

At the council’s Sept. 12 work session, Whitworth, responding to a question from Councilman Michael Klinghammer [District 6], said installing a scrubbers might cost more than $600 million it cost at the Sioux plant. He said the cost of adding scrubbers may add 7 to 14 percent to customer bills.  But Cronin said the council isn’t really advocating scrubbers just sufficient monitors to assure good air quality.


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